This recipe won the Lamb Festival Cook-Off in Dixon, California in 2006. After working at Oliveto Restaurant for just over five years, I had the opportunity to work as an apprenticeship on an organic farm that supplied produce to Oliveto, Chez Panisse, and other top Bay Area restaurants. With the support of Farmer Laura Trent and the other apprentice, the now famous pastry chef Krystin Rubin, our team grilled to victory on a hot, dry July afternoon while lambs pranced in the field to our left and vendors sold fried Snickers bars and lamb tacos (ground lamb, sour cream, salsa, and Cool Ranch Doritos—all in one bag).
1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ medium red onion, cut in half down the middle, then thinly sliced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, removed from the stem
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
salt, to taste
1. Rinse the lamb, pat it dry with a paper towel, and place it in a gallon-sized plastic bag.
2. Put all of the ingredients in the bag, and shift the lamb rack around so that the ingredients are evenly distributed.
3. Seal the bag and store it in the refrigerator overnight.
4. Before grilling the lamb, use your hands to remove any onion, garlic, or sprigs that cling to the meat. Put the rack on a sheet tray, and season the meat with salt and pepper. Place the rack on a hot grill and turn occasionally to caramelize its sides and cook the meat medium-rare.
5. Remove lamb from the grill and put it on a wire rack loosely tented with aluminum foil. Allow the rack to rest for about 8-10 minutes before slicing it into individual chops.
Mint Salsa Verde
Spoon this refreshing and intense sauce over grilled lamb chops; the lively mint tang and acidic kick from the salsa match the intensity of the grilled lamb and brighten the meat’s flavor. Try substituting mint with parsley for an equally delicious sauce that retains its vibrant green color.
3 packed cups washed fresh mint leaves
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup minced shallots
1/5 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped capers (before chopping, rinse if brined, soak in water and drain if salt-packed)
salt, to taste
1. Wash the mint leaves and make sure all of the water is dried from the leaves.
2. Working in batches, stack the mint leaves, slice them in thin ribbons (chiffonade), then turn the ribbons, and slice them into very small squares. (If you want a quicker version of this recipe, you can place the mint in a blender with oil, and pulse the mixture until all the leaves are blended. I do not recommend this version if you have time to slice the mint because you will lose the unique texture and vibrant green that you can achieve with the first method.)
3. Spoon the mixture into a bowl. Stir in chopped capers.
4. Mince the shallots, place them in a small bowl, and submerge them in red wine vinegar. Stir in a little salt, and let the shallots macerate for at least a half hour in the vinegar.
5. Right before serving, mix the shallot-vinegar mixture into the mint-oil mixture. Mix in only what you will use for this meal; the shallots don't hold well in the sauce for more than a day. Taste for salt and acidic balance. Spoon the verde over the grilled lamb chops, and serve.
(Here is a link to the original recipe we created on the farm: http://www.dailydemocrat.com/lifestyle/20140924/chef-contest-being-held-at-dixon-lamb-festival)